Budget Development & Approval

University policy requires all project budgets, along with other proposal details, be reviewed and approved by the Office of Sponsored Programs prior to submission to the sponsor. Below are the information and resources you need to develop budgets that are complete and compliant with federal regulations and University policies.

If you have questions or need assistance with developing your budget, contact the Pre-Award Specialist assigned to your Division/School/College.

Budget Tool

Use the updated budget tool:

Contact your Pre-Award Specialist with questions.

This programmed Excel spreadsheet helps you create and manage your sponsored program budget. The Budget Tool includes all the latest rates necessary for a sponsored project:

  • Fringe benefit rates for senior/key personnel, graduate research assistants, and hourly students.
  • Tuition remission for graduate research assistants and graduate project assistants.
  • Facilities & Administrative Cost Rate (also known as Indirect Cost Rate).
  • Calculations are provided for the life of the project (up to six years).

Special Functions

The Budget Tool allows you to develop a cumulative budget for a program for up to six years. Special calculation tools include:

  • Modular budget for applications to the National Institutes of Health.
  • Specially formatted budget for industry-sponsored projects.

Budget Tool Instructions

Instructions for using the Budget Tool are included in the Excel workbook. The Budget Tool is updated frequently with the latest rate changes. Download a new Budget Tool each time you create a new project budget.

Although not required, Principal Investigators and research administrators are encouraged to use the Budget Tool for all project budgets to ensure all expenses are included and the rates are accurate and properly calculated. If you need assistance with developing your budget or using the Budget Tool, contact the Pre-Award Specialist assigned to your Division/School/College.


Budget Categories

Below is information for the development of sponsored program budgets at UWM. As always, please contact the Pre-Award Specialist assigned to your Division/School/College with questions related to the budget development process.

Faculty and Academic Staff Salaries

Course Releases: For faculty on an academic year contract (nine months), a one course release is equal to 1/8th of the academic year salary (or 12.5% effort).

Summer Salary: One month of summer salary is equal to 1/9th of the academic year salary.

For proposals that involve course releases, summer salary, or other personnel expenditures, contact your Pre-Award Specialist to discuss potential implications of certain funding models. Your Pre-Award Specialist will carefully review the proposed salaries to ensure they align with the University’s policies and procedures and with the sponsor’s guidelines.

Post-Doc Salaries

The minimum salary for post-docs with an annual appointment is $47,476; the minimum salary for post-docs with an academic year appointment is $38,845.

Graduate and Undergraduate Student Salaries

Detailed information related to Project Assistants, Research Assistants, and Undergraduate Students appears below. Salary/stipend rates are maintained by the Graduate School and are built into the Budget Tool.

Project Assistants



A Project Assistant is a graduate student enrolled in the UW System who is assigned training, administrative responsibilities, or other academic or academic support projects or programs, except regular preparation of instructional materials for courses or manual or clerical assignments.

The Assistant is supervised by a member of the faculty or academic staff and is appointed primarily for the benefit of the University, faculty, academic staff, or granting agency. For Project Assistants hired in Dissertator Status, contact your Pre-Award Specialist for the appropriate costs.


Tuition must be requested from all sponsors unless unallowed by sponsor guidelines. UWM uses a flat fee to cover tuition remission for Project Assistants. If not covered by the grant, the hiring unit is responsible for tuition cost.

Research Assistants



A Research Assistant is a graduate student enrolled in the UW System who is assigned to conduct research for the benefit of the student’s own learning/research and for the benefit of the University, faculty/academic staff supervisor, or the grant agency.

Students who have fellowships, scholarships, or traineeships that are distributed through other titles (e.g., fellow, scholar, or trainee) are NOT considered Research Assistants.


Tuition must be requested from all sponsors unless unallowed by sponsor guidelines. UWM uses a flat fee to cover tuition remission for Research Assistants. If not covered by the grant, the hiring unit is responsible for tuition cost.

Undergraduate Assistants



Undergraduate Assistants are not eligible for tuition remission. The use of Undergraduate Assistants is relatively rare; consult with your Pre-Award Specialist for guidance on including Undergraduate Assistants on your project.

In exceptional cases, a qualified undergraduate student may be hired to perform a function usually handled by a graduate student IF a qualified graduate student is unavailable. This type of appointment may not exceed 50% time during the academic year.

Tuition Reference Guide

UWM charges a flat rate for graduate assistant tuition on extramurally-funded projects (both federal and non-federal). For graduate assistants on academic or annual appointments, tuition will be $8,400 for the year. For graduate assistants on single-semester appointments, tuition will be $4,200.

Fringe Benefits

Fringe benefit rates include the cost of items such as the employer’s contribution to health insurance, Medicare, unemployment, and life insurance.

The cost of fringe benefits must be included in the project budget for all UWM faculty, staff, and students participating in the sponsored program. For projects with a proposed start date of July 1, 2022 or later, use these fringe benefit rates (PDF).


Equipment is defined as a tangible, nonexpendable piece of property with a useful life of more than one year and a cost of $5,000 or more.


Many sponsored programs include funds for travel for project personnel. Here is an overview of travel issues that are common on sponsored programs; go to UW TravelWise portal for a complete list of all current travel policies and procedures.

Air Travel

Air travel is typically limited to the lowest available coach fare. Effective 5 January 2015, all air travel must be booked via the UW TravelWise portal using the Concur system or it will not be reimbursed. Concur uses an automated “lowest logical airfare” policy (which is a $150 tolerance threshold above the lowest rate) that allows users some flexibility in determining airlines, departure dates and times, and routes. For more information on reimbursable and non-reimbursable expenses, as well as other policy considerations, please review UW System Administrative Policy 410: Purchase & Payment of Business Air Travel for more information.

Air Travel Using Federal Funds

If you are purchasing airfare with federal funds, the Fly America Act restricts your choice of airlines. Generally, researchers must use an airline owned by an American company (i.e., “flag carrier”), regardless of cost or convenience.

Foreign carriers may be used for flights if a U.S. carrier “code-shares” with a foreign airline. A “code-share” occurs when two or more airlines “code” the same flight as if it was their own. For example, Delta and Air France code-share a flight to Paris, France. If the researcher’s boarding pass or e-ticket identifies the flight as a Delta flight, even if “Air France” is shown on the airplane, the researcher has met the requirements of the Fly America Act. However, if the researcher’s boarding pass or e-ticket indicates an Air France flight, the traveler is not in compliance with the Fly America Act and the trip cannot be reimbursed with the federal grant funds.

The U.S. government has entered into several air transport agreements that allow researchers using federal funds to use certain airlines in the European Union, Australia, Switzerland, and Japan. These agreements allow researchers to arrange air travel on foreign carriers in certain circumstances. Researchers who will travel to, from, or within these areas/countries, should contact the UWM Travel Office to discuss travel within these regions. Please be certain to indicate that the travel is associated with a federal grant or contract.

Exceptions to the Fly America Act

Travelers are not required to use U.S. flag carriers in these circumstances:

  • When there is no non-stop or direct service offered by a U.S. carrier.
  • When travel outside the U.S. increases the number of plane changes to a destination by more than two.
  • When the passenger’s total travel time is extended by at least six hours.
  • When the connective time at an overseas interchange point is four hours or more.

Appropriate Modes of Transportation

The approving authority has the responsibility to determine the most appropriate and cost effective means of transportation consistent with the authorized business purpose of the trip, and to consider all associated costs (e.g. employee work time, overnight lodging, meals, mileage).

For determining if vehicle transportation makes the most economical sense, MapQuest or Google Maps are the standard applications for calculating time and distance.

Researchers with disabilities or who require reasonable accommodations should contact the UWM Travel Office to discuss their options. An accommodation request may be needed prior to departure.

Conference/Workshop/Symposium Fees

The cost of attending conferences, workshops, symposiums, or other dissemination venues are eligible for reimbursement. Researchers should keep the receipts or other materials that document the registration fee associated with attendance.


The University’s maximum lodging rates are based upon the General Service Administration, Departments of State and Defense rates for the location and dates of stay. The maximum rate is for a single/standard sleeping room per person or single occupancy.

For lodging associated with an externally-designated conference, the maximum lodging rate does not apply if the attendee stays at the venue location. For lodging associated with a UW System-designated conference, the cost may not exceed the maximum rate for the location.

Additional information regarding maximum lodging rates is available in UW System Administrative Policy 415: Purchase & Payment of Lodging. Additionally, faculty and staff may pre-plan their expenses using the new Lodging and Meal Per-Diem Calculator.


When the University traveler is expected to incur costs for meals and incidentals for overnight business travel, the University will reimburse meal and incidental expenses (M&IE) under a per diem allowance. The maximum M&IE per diem allowance will be at the rate established by the General Service Administration, Departments of State and Defense for the location of each full day’s (24 hours) travel. The M&IE per diem allowance will only be paid when the traveler is expected to incur costs for meals and incidentals; business travel requires an overnight stay outside the traveler’s headquarters and when the travel is supported by a University business purpose.

For Continental U.S. locations, the incidental portion of the M&IE per diem allowance is $5.00. For Non-Continental U.S. and foreign locations, the incidental portion of the M&IE per diem varies by the location.

Travel that does not include an overnight stay will be limited to a tax reportable day trip meal allowance of $15 per day when the approving authority expects the traveler to incur meal expenses. No day trip meal allowance will be paid when the traveler receives a provided meal, regardless of amount.

For assistance with calculating maximum M&IE, please use the new Lodging and Meal Per-Diem Calculator. Additional information related to maximum M&IE rates is available in UW System Administrative Policy 420: Travel & Expense – Meal and Incidental Expense (M&IE) Per Diem Allowance Reimbursements.

Miscellaneous Expenses

Other expenses are permitted if they are necessary, reasonable, and allocable for the conduct of University business, such as photocopying, Internet, fax, or telephone services or charges. Keep receipts to verify charges; additional justification may be necessary for some expenses.

Personal Vehicles

Personal vehicles may be used for activities on your sponsored project. Reimbursement is provided at the University’s standard mileage rate for personal vehicles (e.g., cars, trucks, vans). Business mileage will be reimbursed at the IRS authorized mileage rate in effect on the date of travel using the most direct route. For personal vehicles, this rate is $0.575/mile; for motorcycles it is $0.545/mile.

All individuals requesting mileage reimbursement must complete a Vehicle Use Agreement on the State of Wisconsin Enterprise Fleet Management System prior to travel (typically a one-time requirement). Reimbursement is typically limited to standard map mileage/calculations; a justification is required for mileage reimbursement requests that exceed the available map mileage/calculations.

Additional information related to mileage reimbursement is available in UW System Administrative Policy 425: Use of Personal Vehicles, Rental Cars, and Fleet for Business Transportation.

Rental Vehicles

Rental vehicles may be used for activities on your sponsored project. UW System has contracts with Enterprise and National Car Rental, which must be used if vehicles are available. If traveling in Wisconsin, the State has agreements with Hertz, Enterprise, and National Car. All contracted rental car providers include the cost of insurance in the rates for UW System. If traveling domestically, rental car reservations must be made via Concur.

Rentals are limited to compact/standard/intermediate vehicle classes. Claims for reimbursement beyond standard/intermediate vehicle classes (i.e. trucks, vans, etc.) for business reasons such as transporting extra passengers, carrying cargo or bulky equipment, etc., must be explained on the expense report.

Additional information related to mileage reimbursement is available in UW System Administrative Policy 425: Use of Personal Vehicles, Rental Cars, and Fleet for Business Transportation.

Taxi, Limousine, and Shuttle Services

Necessary, reasonable, and allocable charges for ground transportation are reimbursable. Whenever possible, use shuttle services offered by lodging facilities and/or conference sites, which are typically free. Receipts are required for all fares that exceed $25.

Additional information related to taxi, limousine, and shuttle services is available in UW System Administrative Policy 430: Travel & Expense – Purchase & Payment Miscellaneous Travel Expenses.

Travel Calculator

UW System has developed a Lodging and Meal Per-Diem Calculator to assist Principal Investigators with developing budget estimates for travel. Use of the Travel Calculator is highly encouraged for those Principal Investigators developing travel estimates for inclusion in federal grant and contract submissions. Under the Uniform Guidance, proposals must now include a detailed breakdown of travel costs (airfare, lodging, meals, registration/conference registration fees, taxi/shuttle services, rental cars, etc.). The Travel Calculator will provide lodging and meal estimates based on location and dates of travel.

Travel by Students, Participants, and Other Personnel

Travel on sponsored programs is typically permitted for students, participants, and other personnel, so long as the travel is necessary, reasonable, and allocable. Travel is usually incorporated into the budget at the proposal stage and approved during the initial award negotiation phase.

The allocation of travel across cost categories may vary across grant programs. For example:

  • Travel for undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral students on a research grant will likely be charged to the “Travel” budget category; however,
  • Travel for undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral students on a training or education grant will likely be charged to the “Participant Support” budget category.

In these instances, charges allocated incorrectly may have an impact on other cost categories (e.g., Facilities & Administrative Costs). Consult with the Post-Award Specialist assigned to your Division/School/College to discuss modifications to travel expenses for students, participants, or other personnel.

Participant Support Costs

Participant Support Costs are typically used in training grants or functions, in which the primary purpose of the funding is to provide training for a specific population for their own benefit (e.g., undergraduate/graduate students, in-service teachers, high school students). Costs may include stipends (excluding fringe benefits), travel, housing, meals, and/or books/supplies. In some instances, sponsors and programs may strictly limit the amount requested for Participant Support Costs; please review the guidelines carefully.

Payments to human subjects are not considered as Participant Support Costs and are allocated to the “Other Direct Costs” category.


A subaward is a contractual agreement between the primary award recipient (lead) and a secondary institution. It contains the work specifications, approved budget, and the terms and conditions under which the work is to be accomplished. A subaward is issued when a third-party organization (e.g., collaborator at another university) is needed to perform a scientific or programmatic portion of a UWM sponsored program.

UWM as the Primary (Lead) Institution

If you are a principal investigator and are funding one or more colleagues from another institution from your grant, your colleagues must provide the following information to you prior to proposal submission:

  1. A letter of commitment or statement of intent to enter into a consortium agreement (.docx) from their organization(s) signed by an individual authorized to bind the institution to a grant/contract. If cost-sharing is proposed, the letter must include a statement indicating the institution will provide the cost-share amount during the award term.
  2. A statement of work for the organization’s role in the project.
  3. A budget and budget justification, approved by their organization, of their share of the project costs (including information related to cost-sharing, if applicable).

Additional documents may be required depending on the requirements of the grant program and sponsor.

Collaborative Linkages

When sponsors and program guidelines allow collaborative applications to be submitted as a simultaneous submission of proposals from different organizations with each organization requesting a separate award, it is assumed that this method will be used.

The benefits of collaborative linkages are significant: in addition to being a collegial way to treat partners, submission of a collaborative proposal from multiple organizations reduces for the lead organization the administrative burden that comes with managing subawards, provides direct and quicker access to funding for the non-lead organization, and has cleaner reporting responsibilities for both.

In the event a Principal Investigator has a strong desire to submit as a single proposal in which a single award is being requested with subawards administered by UWM, then, if funded, the F&A generated from each subaward will be split evenly between the applicant College/School/Unit and OSP.

UWM as the Subawardee

If you will be key personnel on a proposal in which another institution is the primary award recipient, provide the following information to the Principal Investigator prior to proposal submission:

  1. A letter of commitment from the UWM Office of Sponsored Programs (contact your Pre-Award Specialist for assistance).
  2. A statement of work, for UWM‘s role in the project.
  3. A budget and budget justification, approved by the UWM Office of Sponsored Programs, for UWM‘s share of the project costs.

The lead institution may require additional documents depending on its policies and the requirements of the grant program or sponsor.

Subaward requirements vary among sponsors and programs; carefully review the sponsor’s guidelines and contact the Pre-Award Specialist assigned to your Division/School/College for assistance.

Other Costs


A consultant is an individual who provides professional advice or services for a fee, but normally not as an employee of the lead institution. Consultants typically possess a unique skill, expertise, and/or education in order to participate in a particular project. Consultant charges and use must be appropriately justified in the proposal. Proposed consultant rates must align with rates used from all sources of funding—both federal and non-federal.

Sponsors may have specific criteria for the inclusion of consultants in project budgets; please refer to the sponsor’s guidelines for further information. Employees of the UW System may NOT be paid as consultants on any sponsored project; the inclusion of other UW System employees must be handled as a subaward for budgeting and payment purposes. For additional guidance, contact the Pre-Award Specialist assigned to your Division/School/College.


Typically refers to costs associated with equipment maintenance, such as software, technology, or vehicles used in the project. These costs must be appropriately documented in order to be allocated to the project.

Materials and Supplies

The cost for the materials and supplies for a project may be included in the budget if they are necessary, reasonable, and allocable. Materials and supplies usually cost less than $5,000 to acquire; most computing devices are considered a “supply.” To include computing devices in a budget as a direct cost item, the budget justification should clearly state that the cost is essential and necessary for the project.


Many peer-reviewed journals charge authors for the publication of their scholarly products, and most sponsors allow PIs to include “page charges” in their project budgets. These expenses typically support the dissemination plan.

Other Direct Costs

Includes costs that may be directly allocated to a particular project but do not align with any of the other direct cost categories listed above. This may include tuition for graduate students and human subject payments.

Facilities & Administrative Costs (Indirect Costs)

Facilities & Administrative Costs are actual costs incurred by UWM in support of extramural activities, but cannot be charged to a specific grant or contract. Examples include pre-award services, post-award services, library services, utilities, building and equipment depreciation, and other administrative or support functions.

The federal government recognizes the cost of extramural research, including expenses that are shared across all sponsored programs and cannot be allocated to a specific project. To ensure these costs are captured in the project budget, Facilities & Administrative Costs are included in the budget as a percentage of the project’s direct costs.

UWM has three approved Facilities & Administrative Cost rates for projects that occur on-campus. The chart below details the three rates and each of the characteristics of projects that fall under each. It is possible that one project may have research, public service, and/or instruction characteristics—applicants should use the categorical rate that aligns with the majority of project activities.

Category Rate Characteristics of Project
Research 54.0% “Research” is defined as a systematic study directed toward fuller scientific knowledge or understanding of the subject studied. “Research” includes both basic and applied research projects. “Development” is the systematic use of knowledge and understanding gained from research directed toward the production of useful materials, devices, systems, or methods, including design and development of prototypes and processes.

The term “research” also includes activities involving the training of individuals in research techniques where such activities utilize the same facilities as other research and development activities and where such activities are not included in the instruction definition.

Instruction 50.0% Projects designed to support the research, training, or enhancement of general instruction of students at UWM. Instruction awards also help professional schools to establish, expand, or improve programs of continuing professional education. Examples of instruction projects include those where the primary purpose is curriculum development or NIH training grant programs.
Public Service 35% Projects established primarily to provide non-instructional services beneficial to individuals and groups external to the institution. Such activities include community service programs (excluding instructional activities) and cooperative extension services. Included in this category are conferences, institutes, general advisory services, reference bureaus, radio and television, consulting, and similar non-instructional activities.

See the definition of ‘off-campus’ for the use of the off-campus rate, which is 26%.

UWM has established a policy for the inclusion of Facilities & Administrative Costs in proposal budgets. Rates may vary based on the sponsor; see the table below for additional details. For assistance with calculating the appropriate Facilities & Administrative costs, contact the Pre-Award Specialist assigned to your Division/School/College.

Proposal To: Facilities and Administrative
Costs Rate:
Tuition Remission Required
I. Federal Entities
A. Direct Federal (unless federal regulations stipulate an alternate rate). Full* Yes
B. Non-direct Federal (All sources except the State of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Governmental Units—See Below). Full Yes
II. Non-Federal Entities
A. For-profit Entities Full No
Clinical Trial 20% No
Matching Funds for a Federal or Non-Profit Funded Grant/Contract. Rate Applicable on Original Award No
B. Non-Profit Entities Full No
Agencies with University Approved Rate that Differs (See Indirect Cost Policy). Stipulated Rate No
Agencies without University Approved Rate but with Documentation to Establish an Acceptable Rate. To Be Determined No
Non-Wisconsin Governmental Units (e.g., foreign or domestic states, counties, municipalities, etc.). Full No
Wisconsin Governmental Units (counties or local municipalities or government units).** 15% Yes
C. State of Wisconsin Agencies*** 15% Yes
DPI, VTAE, and H&FS Training, Instructional, and Public Service Proposals. 8% Yes

*”Full” indicates the entire Facilities and Administrative Cost Rate appropriate for the project type (research, instruction, or public service).

**All proposals must include the following statement: “If funded with federal pass-through funds, Facilities and Administrative Costs (Indirect) costs must be awarded at the highest allowable rate. If no federal funds are involved, tuition remission may be excluded from the award.”

***All proposal budgets must include the following statement: “If funded from state GPR funds, tuition remission and Facilities and Administrative (Indirect) costs may be excluded from the award.”


Other Budget Considerations

Below are additional considerations for the development of sponsored program budgets at UWM. Please contact the Pre-Award Specialist assigned to your Division/School/College with questions related to any of these topics.

Budget Justifications

The budget justification is a vital part of the proposal. The budget justification serves as the basis for the figures included on the budget pages and is critical in the proposal review process. Below are a few items to remember when developing your budget justification:

  • Show your work. Reviewers and sponsor administrators should be able to determine how you arrived at your budget figures.
  • The budget justification serves as the rationale for your costs. Be certain to tie each cost to the overall project so that readers understand the importance of each cost/item to the overall project.
  • If portions of your budget include an escalation for costs, be sure to state this in the budget justification. If you use the Budget Tool, salary may be escalated within the Budget Tool. Fringe benefits are automatically escalated by one percent each year within the Tool.
  • Be certain to keep your back-up documentation. Sponsors may request estimates for equipment and other major purchases during a pre-award audit.
  • Present the budget justification in a format that allows a reader to easily assess the costs in relation to the budget. For instance, if the budget uses headers such as “salaries,” “fringe benefits,” and “travel,” be certain to use the same headers in your budget justification. It allows readers to quickly skim the budget and the budget narrative to find specific items of cost.
  • Take time to read the budget, budget justification, and narrative. Do all of the expenses in the budget appear in the budget justification? Do the budget, budget justification, and proposal narrative all align?

Above all else, remember that the reviewers and program officer are not the only individuals reading your budget justification. If a proposal is recommended for funding, many sponsors send the proposal for a pre-award audit. Many pre-award auditors do not have a scientific or technical background and may not understand vague budget items. It is recommended that you provide as much detail as possible in the budget justification during the submission phase—it may result in a faster pre-award audit and award processing.

National Science Foundation Budget Justifications

NSF policy requires proposing organizations to define and consistently apply the term “year” when requesting salary compensation for senior personnel, and to specify this definition in the budget justification. Sample language to satisfy this expectation follows:

Budget Justification

The following cost items are directly tied to project objectives and activities as described in the project description. Rates follow standard university travel, purchase, and expenditure policies. UW-Milwaukee’s definition of a “year” for budgeting and management of senior personnel compensation is the fiscal year (July 1 to June 30).

Cost-Sharing (Matching Funds)

If a project requires cost-sharing, or matching funds, contact your chair, dean and/or division head to discuss the proposed cost-sharing commitment. All cost share commitments must be appropriately documented in the proposal and in the WISPER record; failure to provide the appropriate documentation may result in the delay of proposal submission and/or award acceptance.

As a resource to campus, the Office of Sponsored Programs has assembled a list of Frequently Asked Questions as it relates to cost-share.

If the project includes a subrecipient that will provide cost-sharing for the project, the institutional commitment letter must include a reference to the proposed cost-sharing. See Subawards for additional information.

Space Renovations/Implications

All projects that involve the construction or modification of facilities at UWM will require additional review by the UW System Office of Capital Planning and Budget and/or the State of Wisconsin Building Commission. Contact the Pre-Award Specialist assigned to your Division/School/College to discuss whether the project will require additional institutional clearances or review.